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Borderland woman hoped pig's brain would cure her son's diabetes

Updated: Wednesday, July 31 2013, 09:08 PM MDT
Borderland woman hoped pig

By: Stephanie Guadian
EL PASO, Texas -- The Federal Drug Administration's crackdown on some alternative diabetes treatments could have a big impact here in the Borderland.

"Diabetes is a real problem. It's just a matter of when you are going to get it. Not are you going to get it," said Dr. Hector Ocaranza.

The doctor is the health director for the city and county of El Paso.

A study by the American Diabetes Association showed young Latinos have the fastest growing rate of diabetes in the country.

It didn't take long for news of the FDA crackdown on more than a dozen companies that market illegal diabetes treatments to reach his office.

"I was very happy. Because the business of selling remedies is very lucrative. And a lot of people take advantage of somebody who has a chronic condition like diabetes."

The FDA is targeting companies that sell bogus dietary supplements and online prescription drugs, often without prescriptions. One Borderland doctor estimates some 70 percent of people in El Paso and Juarez use herbal or alternative medications. That's more than twice the national average.

Ocaranza says the mother of one of his young diabetes patients was prepared to sell the family's furniture in order to buy part of a pig's brain that controls hormones. She planned to then insert it into her son's arm hoping for a cure. 

"I had to tell them that is wrong. This is not something that is going to improve the condition. And he needs to continue with the insulin. And the problem is once they get off the insulin they end up in the hospital extremely sick," said Ocaranza.

Many people from El Paso cross the border into Mexico looking for alternative treatments for diabetes. Jose Rodolfo Fierro came to a Juarez market looking for the Cundeamor herb.

"I am trying to get some medicine for a relative who lives in the states, El Paso. He's a diabetic. He was told that if he was using this type of medicine he might get better. So he is willing to try," said Fierro.

Not all alternative medicines are bad, according to Ocaranza. But he insists diabetic patients should see a physician and discuss all treatments, especially those not prescribed.

Click here for more information on illegally sold diabetes treatments

Borderland woman hoped pig's brain would cure her son's diabetes
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